Rosie is leaving us.
I had ordered boots for her front feet, thinking she would like it if I could lead her out the quiet roads as I rode Ben; ignoring the fact that her painful walking, shaky legs and stumbling were not coming from her hooves, but from her legs. When she walked, her head was low, her spirit dull, she looked far older than she is. This has not come suddenly, but, despite fleeting moments of her old spirit, slowly, inexorably she has seemed to lessen before our eyes. She will not touch hay, there is little grass, so I give her haylage and she chews it slowly, seemingly absent-mindedly, from some very far away place. The vet has come, the dentist has come, the vet has come again.
One day I sat on the ground beside her and she lowered her head to my lap. Is it time to go? I whispered. She was very still. Are you ready? Silence, but I knew her answer. She has been ready for months and I have not seen it. I sat in the stable yard that evening and Ben and Rosie gathered near me as they usually do. I tried to quiet my mind. But all I could visualise was Rosie, dying. At that moment, Ben herded Rosie up the track in some agitation. I stayed put. Only when my mind felt clear I went up to them. What do they need from me right now? I thought. Calmness and confidence. I walked up the track. Ben turned his head to me. I am in charge Ben. I will mind you. He breathed on my hand. I moved over to Rosie. She stayed quiet, in that aura of total peace that surrounds her. Every now and then she turned her head and just touched my hand. Rosie was minding me.
The next morning our vet came out. I have asked him before if Rosie was ready to go, not really afraid of the answer. And he said, no, not yet. This morning he said that she is. I knew this already. Rosie had told me. Before he left, I asked in some panic – am I doing the right thing? A shy man, he looked me full in the eyes. Yes you are he said.
We are devastated. She is part of our family and we are all devastated. I cry at stupid times. I cannot talk myself through this, Rosie has touched me at a much deeper place. The only place I do not cry is in the paddock. Neither Ben nor Rosie need my sentiment. Rosie is withdrawing day by day. Ben looks worried and if my sadness surfaces he leaves me and herds Rosie away, bossing her in some agitation. Chop wood, carry water it is said. And at least with ponies there are plenty of manual tasks to be done. I fill and carry water buckets. I tidy. I muck out. I pull haylage out of its tight bale, breathing in its uniquely strong smell and placing it around the paddock, not worrying if Ben eats too much. I pull ragwort. I focus as never before on the present moment, disciplining my mind because Ben does not need any agitation or emotion from me. Chop wood, carry water. And so we pass this time until the end comes later this week.